Expert Panel : Locally Sourced Product

I’d love to know if you source flowers locally or from US farms. If so, can you share your experiences working directly with growers? If not, why not—so we, as growers, can improve and reach out to designers … we’d love to know what your favorite “locally sourced” flowers/foliages are.
Submitted by LynnVale Studios, LLC

Robyn from Bare Root Flora:
We are fortunate that our local brokers get a fair amount of flowers from Colorado’s own Jordan’s Greenhouse, which grows a hefty portion of the tulips, dahlia, anemones, and ranunculus we buy. Colorado was actually home to many large flower growers back in the day, but those farms went by the wayside long ago. What we wouldn’t do for a Floret Flower Farm down the road! 🙂 We do try to patronize other fabulous growers like Swan Island Dahlias, out of Oregon, for example. But most of that road ends up being navigated by our wholesalers themselves–we don’t have a tremendous amount of experience working directly with growers. I’d love to get hooked up with more small-scale artisan flower farmers, so if you’re out there, let us know about you!

Ariella Chezar:
As much as possible I grow my own and use local growers. The balance comes to me from the San Francisco and the New York markets. I tell the local growers which flowers I am interested in, and they grown them. I am always after unusual varieties and colors but most especially, I am interested in flowers that have been grown responsibly and without pesticides.

Brandon from Epic Flowers:
We’ve been working with local farms for close to 15 years now. What we look for is product that you do not find in traditional designs. Local farms have played a big part of our success because they listen to what we want and they have made is possible for us to design with fun unique florals and greens. Some local farms compete against us florists. This is a turn off, as you might know and when it comes to who we buy tulips from this spring we will remember that. Local farms who want to work with local florists need to know competing against us is not sustainable. Our favorite locally grown flowers: Varieties of Coxcomb/Amaranth, veggies/fruit (ornamental peppers, artichokes, okra, raspberries) snow on the mountain, peony greens, canterbury bells, red shuttle flower, turtle flowers, bergamot, a variety of herbs (mint, Sage, rosemary)

Cori from Moss Fine Floral:
I do source flowers locally as well as from local and national floral wholesalers. I would love to support more independent farms but have only successfully worked with a few. I’ve found that the two farms I work with most are very casual which only works with a very casual client. My calls are sometimes not returned and email is sparse with these growers. This doesn’t stop me from chasing them as their product is always gorgeous and they do service with a smile. If there are farms out there that are reading this post and they can work with me in Chicago I’d love to hear from you!

My local faves are limited but extremely fresh: Zinnia, Cockscomb, Dahlia, Lisianthus, Peony, Limelight Hydrangea, Amaranthus, Tuberose, Sunflowers, Gomphrena, Ornamental Kale, Euphorbia, and Eucalyptus.

Cathy from Sprout Flowers:
My only experience working directly with local growers has been pretty limited. I don’t have time to get out of the shop to go hunting down growers and the few who are willing to deliver are rather scattershot and inconsistent.

Since I am relatively close to the Boston Flower Exchange, it’s my guess that it makes the most sense for local growers who have consistent product to sell directly to wholesalers and not sell a few bunches here and there to random small shops.

peach bridal bouquet

Designed by Erin of Floret Flower Farm

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  1. I have used my own garden grown flowers for years to add that special something to my client’s arrangements. This year I have made a concerted effort to grow more. We have a local grower that grows wonderful spring and summer flowers. One of the problems I have is that their dahlias do not last well, there is a high rate of flower failure. I suspect that their harvest timing may be a little off or the care and handling immediately after harvest is to blame. I still purchase from them, but I buy knowing that I may need to buy extra because of this.

  2. Good to know what designers are thinking. As a flower farmer I have made myself known to the florists in my area. I try to provide the best service always. Once I stopped everything I was doing to pick some bachelor’s buttons for a local florist because someone at the shop used what they had bought at market for a wedding in another design.

  3. I agree with Cori from Moss Fine Floral I’ve had a heck of a time trying to get in touch with our local growers. They are not as responsive to answering calls or emails. I’m sure they are busy working the fields. It would be great to buy more locally grown product but it’s rather difficult. I’ve taken to growing a few things myself but of course, there is no way that I can grown all the product I need.

  4. I would be interested in Brandon expanding on his thoughts about growers competing with florists. Is this because small growers that also design are under cutting on pricing, or simply taking business away. How would a grower that develops a design business be different from a designer that develops a flower farm to harvest from?

  5. Hi! My name is Ellen Frost and I am the owner of Local Color Flowers. We are a Baltimore based floral design company specializing in the use of locally grown flowers for weddings and special events. We are committed to buying all of our flowers, foliage, branches, plants and herbs from growers within 100 miles of Baltimore. (note: buying from local growers is not the same as buying from a local wholesaler)

    This topic is close to my heart so I thought I would share some of our experiences.
    1. Buying local is good for business: We have doubled our volume every year since we began 5 years ago. Customers seek us out for weddings and events because they want a fresh, local product that makes them feel good about their purchase. Customers seek us out because they want something unique-that is not the same as every other cookie cutter arrangement they see.

    2. Buying local is not AS easy as conventional buying-but it’s worth it: When we began 5 years ago, we bought exclusively from 3 growers. one we met at the farmers market-the other two were introduced to us by the first. It was NOT logistically easy in the beginning to purchase from many of these growers. Many didnt have a way to communicate what was available (weekly lists). Many did not use computers/email/cellphones. Some were suspicious of us and our motives. The relationships that we developed with the growers has taken time, just like any other relationships. But it’s SO worth it. The products we get from the Local growers are FAR superior to the products we see at the wholesale market. Not to mention, we KNOW the growers. We walk the fields with them every week picking out the best products for our clients. We are able to tell and show our clients exactly where their flowers are coming from through photos, video and other social media tools. They can see their wedding flowers being planted, growing and being cut JUST FOR THEM!!

    Right now we buy from 17 local flower farmers including: Farmhouse Flowers, Wollam Gardens, Plant Masters, M and M Plants, Stoney Acres, Locust Point Flowers, Belvedere Farm, Talmar Gardens, Butterbee Farm, Red Chimney Farm, Scarborough Farm, Weavers Farm, Lynnvale Studios, Seaberry Farm, Black Oak Cut Flowers, Full Circle Farm and Martin’s Farm. We are still searching out new growers as well.

    3.Supporting local growers, even in a small capacity is the right thing to do: Supporting local growers in your community is important for loads of reasons-they hire local folks, they spend their money locally, the bank locally, they help keep our communities diverse and they are pretty awesome people to work with!

    My advice to designers that are trying to work with local growers:

    1. set up a meeting with your local farmers and let them know what you’re looking for. Maybe you need local flowers on occasion, maybe every week..Explain what would work best for you and ask them what process (ordering, deliverying etc) would work best for them. Work out a PLAN. this works better than just randomly emailing them in the middle of the season and expecting great results.

    2. Provide feedback and ask for feedback: If the flowers you’re recieving from a certain grower are not up to par-for whatever reason-talk with the grower about your expectations. Maybe they didnt know you need the stem lenghts 12 inches-but now that they know-they’ll probably compy or tell you otherwise. Ask for feedback as well. Maybe it’s hard for the grower to respond to email, and they’d prefer you to call their cell. That’s an easy change to make the relationship work better. Maybe they have a hard time filling orders that are placed less than 48 hours before they’re needed. This will help you in planning your orders for the week.

    3 TRY!!! Try to buy local. Even if you only buy a small percentage of your product locally and it takes a little more effort-it’s worth it. Step out of your comfort zone and try! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

    Looking forward to hearing more about how it works for folks!

  6. In Central South Texas where I am, there was only 1 grower that sold to me. He was 180 miles away and would come by weekly with a wet truck. Sadly he closed his farm last November. A sign of the times in our area because of drought. As of January 29, 2013, 90 percent of Texas is in some form of drought condition, and the state’s reservoirs are only 66 percent full. Nearly 7 percent of the state is in “exceptional” drought, the worst stage. I am aware of another grower and I have made attempts to buy from them, but they have an exclusive selling contract with a statewide grocery store. A lot of communities in Texas have Farmer Co-Op’s. They are a good source when I need grains and wheats. Cotton is also locally grown which I use a lot. I use foliages, flowers and succulents from my garden when I can. My supply dwindles in the summer time because of the drought conditions and water rationing. I’m fascinated by the availability of amazing flowers to my flower friends from across the country. I hope to touch each and every one of them in my lifetime.